Archive for October, 2012

Where Is The Health Care Money Going?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Health is important.  That’s no big surprise here.  We are becoming more aware of the consequences of unhealthy eating habits, and being inactive on our health and well being.  The need for these things has been constantly growing as our lifestyles are moving in the opposite direction; we become more sedentary as most jobs involve sitting at a desk all day, means of transportation are making us walk less, and we are always looking for the quick fix for most of our meals.

It’s no surprise that this has caused a rapid rise in the number of health related problems.  Therefore a lot of money has been invested in the health care system to address this problem.  But are we addressing the wrong way?

When someone has high blood pressure, he goes to the doctor and he is prescribed medication to reduce his blood pressure.  When someone has a headache, he takes ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, or whatever else to cure his headache.  When someone has back pain, he goes to the chiropractor to get his spine cracked and get rid of the pain.  When someone has knee pain he goes to the physical therapist so they can treat his knee.

You get the idea…

Everything we do in regards to our health is geared towards treating the symptoms, treating the pain.  All (or most) of the money that is invested in health care is put towards that; treating symptoms.

But what exactly causes all those symptoms?  Isn’t the government and everyone that invest in health care interested in where do these problems actually come from?

What causes the high blood pressure?  What causes the headaches?  What causes the back problems?  What causes the knee pain?

All the symptoms (health problems, pains, aches, etc) that our body experiences are the results of something going wrong somewhere.  And most of the time, the cause of the problem is not the symptom.  It’s different, it comes from somewhere else.

My colleague Perry Nickelston is dead on.

We need to start paying attention to what causes problems.  What causes are body to hurt, ache, and feel like crap sometimes.  Here are some of the causes of our problems in our life today:

  • sedentary lifstyle
  • not enough exercise
  • too much of the same type of exercise without variety
  • processed food
  • too much sugar
  • pesticides in food
  • heavy metals in fish and other types of food
  • chemicals and solvents in cleaning products, and perfumes
  • chemicals in water
  • pollution
  • etc

There are obviously many different causes of health problems in our world today.  The most important thing to take away from this is that treating symptoms, and investing money in the treatment of symptoms and medications are not solving any problems.

We need to take a good hard look at our lifestyles today and ask ourselves why we are dealing with so many health problems in a time where we put a lot of money in our health care system, and where our doctors are smarter than ever.

The bulk of the money in the health care system might need to be invested somewhere else if we want to break the cycle, and actually solve health problems.

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Different Hip Flexor Stretches

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Of all the different muscles that are important to stretch, the hip flexors come at the top of the list more often than not.  Hip flexors are stiff, short and overactive in a lot of people ranging from high level athletes to Jo Schmo’s working at their computer all day.

Athletes usually have pretty stiff hip flexors from running or skating.  On the other hand, desk jockeys sit all day, which shorten the hip flexors.  So hip flexors are a problematic area for a lot of people, whether you’re an athlete or not; this is why it’s important to stretch them regularly.

There are different types of hip flexor stretches that can be more or less appropriate for you, depending on your situation.  Let’s go over a couple of them.

1. First, and most importantly, the hip flexor stretch done wrong.

This is something that is seen way too often in people doing a hip flexor stretch; they just crank their hips forward as far as they can go until they feel something.  The problem with that is they don’t reverse the anterior pelvic tilt, which doesn’t even end up stretching the hip flexor muscles.  All they’re doing is overstretching the ligaments and front of the capsule making the joint unstable on top of not getting a stretch in their hip flexors.  No matter which hip flexor stretch you decide to perform, always make sure you maintain a posterior pelvic tilt; you should only have to shift forward slightly to feel a stretch.

2. The classic 1/2 kneeling hip flexor stretch on the ground.

This is the classic hip flexor stretch where you assume a 1/2 kneeling position, perform a posterior pelvic tilt, and slightly shift forward while squeezing your butt the whole time.  It is pretty basic, and a good way to teach someone who’s just starting how to perform a hip flexor stretch the right way (posterior tilt, squeeze the butt, etc).

3. The rectus femoris stretch.

Of all the different hip flexor muscles we have, the rectus femoris is one that is often problematic.  Since it crosses both the knee joint and the hip joint, flexing the knee while extending the hip will emphasize the stretch on the rectus femoris.

4. The box hip flexor stretch

The internal rotation of the femur on the back leg, the front foot being elevated, and the overhead reach all increase the stretch on the psoas.  The psoas is another problematic hip flexor, so getting some manual work done on it in combination with this stretch should help release it.

5. The back knee elevated hip flexor stretch

This is a variation of a hip flexor stretch for someone who presents with Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI).  Most people with FAI can’t flex their hip past 90 degrees because of bony overgrowth either on the femoral head or on the acetabulum.  With a conventional hip flexor stretch, the front hip flexes at around 90 degrees and a little more, so this variation prevents any irritation of the hip.

There are plenty other variations of hip flexor stretches, but this should at least give you a basic understanding of what type of stretch to use when, when stretching the hip flexors.

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Is It Possible to Prevent Concussions?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Concussions are probably the fastest growing injuries in sports today.  With the athletes in all sports becoming bigger, stronger, faster and more powerful, the speed of the game, no matter what sport, is increasing and the contacts are becoming more and more violent.

Another important factor to consider in the growth of the number of concussions diagnosed is that the awareness of this serious injury is better than ever.  What I mean is that we are more educated on what the symptoms of a concussions are, and how to identify them.  A raise in awareness in clearly a good thing, bu it means that the number of concussions identified versus the number of concussions that go unnoticed is bigger.

In other words, sports are played at a faster pace and contacts are more violent today than ever before, but we are better at identifying concussions, so the numbers will be higher.

In my opinion, the concussion epidemic is a result of both of these factors (better awareness + faster pace sports).

But the big question is: can we prevent concussions?

While I don’t pretend to have the answer to this important questions, there are a number of factors that need to be considered regarding concussions;  these could potentially affect the rate of concussions in sports.  Let’s take a look at some of them:

1. Although I don’t have any evidence of this, I feel fairly confident in saying that among all sports, ice hockey is probably the one in which the rate of concussions has been growing the fastest.  There are probably many reasons for that.  One of them is the dimensions of the surface of play.  No other sports played at such high speeds has a surface of play surrounded by boards and glass.  And we’re not talking about the size of a football field here, we’re talking about a 200 feet by 85 feet playing surface.  When there is 10 guys skating at very high speeds (that is not including the 2 goalies, and the 4 referees), high speed contacts are just waiting to happen.  Although contacts between 2 players are most frequent against the boards, open-ice hits are not infrequent, and probably the most devastating ones.

Would increasing the size of the playing surface be one way to limit the number of open-ice hits?  I would be tempted to say yes since you would have the same number of players on a bigger surface, therefore opening up the traffic.  And this wouldn’t be that crazy of an idea since the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) already uses ice surfaces that are wider (98 feet, instead of 85).  There are some other logistic problems that this could cause, but that’s a different story.

International Hockey Rink Size

2. Certain rules in sports are favorable to increase the number of concussion within the game.  Again taking the example of ice hockey, after the previous lockout in the NHL in 2004, the 2-line pass rule was abandoned to make the game more exciting.  For those not familiar with hockey, this rule was basically forbidding passes across the ice (length-wise), and made breakaways a lot less frequent.  With the 2-line pass rule abandoned, it made the game faster, with less stoppages of play, and was opening the door for more spectacular plays, and breakaways…but also for more open-ice hits.

Again it’s hard to know with certainty if this rule alone impacts the number of concussions, but it sure does increase the speed of the game and players are more vulnerable for those open-ice type of hits.  There are certainly rules in other sports that increase the speed of the sport or the vulnerability of certain players to more dangerous hits.  A revision of the rules in sports where concussions are frequent might be a thing to consider if we want to reduce the incidence of this type of injury in sports today.

3. The equipment in sports is like having a full-body armor.  Shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin pads, you name it, are at the fine point of technology and are protecting the bodies of the athletes to make them (or at least make them feel) invincible.  The players don’t go nice and smooth when they go to make a hit knowing that they have a full-body armor to protect them.

Would these players make those same kind of hits if they didn’t have any protection?  I doubt it.  I’m not suggesting that players shouldn’t wear equipment because they definitely need the protection playing high speed sports, but maybe there should be a limit to the development of new technology when it comes down to equipment.  Or maybe there could be rules for the equipment (size, material, etc).  The NHL created a rule to limit the size of goalie equipment a couple years ago to make sure that wasn’t becoming an issue in the number of goals scored per game (imagine how much less entertaining hockey games would be with less than 2 goals scored per game on a consistent basis).  I don’t see why a rule in equipment restriction for players could not be an option.

4. The strength of the anterior neck muscles and the deep stabilizers of the cervical spine are important to minimize the whiplash effect when getting hit.  With most hits that result in a concussion there are 2 distinct impacts that occur that can cause or amplify the concussion.  The first one is the initial hit during which there usually is a whiplash effect (violent head movement) that makes the brain move inside the cranium.

The second one is the contact of the head to the ground when the athlete falls down after the hit.  Often times when the hit is violent, everything happens so fast the player doesn’t have time to react and brace himself, and his head violently hit the ground.  In both situations, if the anterior neck muscles and deep stabilizers don’t react fast enough or aren’t strong enough, the whiplash effect can be worse, and therefore increases the chances of the brain injury.  Appropriate neck work is very important for athletes who play contact sports to limit the whiplash effect and the brain movement in the cranium when hit hard.  Again, I’m not saying that strengthening the appropriate muscle will save you from a concussion, but it is helpful in trying to minimize the risk factors.

5. Posture.  With a forward head posture, the anterior neck muscles become inhibited, and this can cause further problems (see #4), but the upper cervical spine muscles also get very stiff and overactive.  The rectus capitis minor is one of these muscles.   It also blends into the dura, which is the lining that encapsulate the brain.  This muscle is known to be a potential cause of headaches.  Now it sounds like this muscle could really be a trouble maker when you mix forward head posture and concussion, doesn’t it?

There are a host of factors that contribute to concussions, and as you can see not all of them have to do with the athlete’s body itself.  The good thing about concussion is that we are slowly becoming more educated about this epidemic in sports today.  Understanding the physiological process is one piece of the puzzle in our fight against concussion, but it’s important to realize that the nature of the game also is one.

Hopefully I opened your eyes on some of the contributing factors of concussions.  Your comments or questions are more than welcome!
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Is Variety That Important?

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Variety is usually one of the staple principles in designing training programs.  Variety can be used for different purposes:

  • Progression – starting with a basic exercise and progress it to a more difficult variation.
  • Adaptability – varying the exercises frequently ensures continued adaptation of the muscles.
  • Interest – prevent the clients and athletes of becoming too bored doing the same exercises all the time.

While I’m not going to argue against any of these reasons for using variety, I will certainly make a point that variety is not always desirable.

Strength development is a good example.  If you’re trying to improve strength, rotating exercises too often can be counterproductive.  There is an important neural adaptation that takes place when you’re gaining strength that is due to your body getting more efficient at performing a specific movement pattern.  When you switch exercises around too often you don’t give the central nervous system time to adapt, so you’re potentially limiting your gain.

As you become a more advanced lifter, there is more and more value to working with percentages of your 1 rep max (1 RM) to prevent overtraining and injuries.  This is something that might be hard to do if you’re constantly changing your exercises around because it becomes pretty hard to know what you’re 1RM actually is for each of them.

Those are 2 pretty big factors to consider for any intermediate-advanced lifter.

But then, does variety becomes obsolete?

No.  There is a way to get the best of both worlds.  A way I have found very efficient throughout the years is to stick to your main lifts ( a small handful of them) in pretty much all of your programs, but use variety in your assistance exercises.  For example, you would put a deadlift as a main lower body lift in 3, or 4 consecutive programs, but use different assistance exercises in each one of those programs; let’s say a Cable Pullthrough on the first program, a Stiff-Legged Deadlift on the second one, a Good Morning on the third, and a Rack Pull on the fourth.  You can also use variety with your core exercises, and your corrective work if you want.  That way you make consistent progress off of your main lifts, while getting variety from your assistance exercises, and therefore ensuring adaptability and interest in the program from the athletes or clients.

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Is There Really a Difference Between Dumbbells and Kettlebells?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Perhaps this is a question that a lot of folks in the strength and conditioning industry are asking themselves.  I have myself wondered this for some time because I felt like a kettlebell was really just another tool that is slightly different than a dumbbell, and they didn’t have specific benefits.  At first, kettlebells don’t seem that special; they have a handle that loops on top of the weight, instead of having a handle in the middle of 2 weights (dumbbells).

It’s not until I started to talk more with people in the industry who use kettlebells a lot that I started realizing the huge advantages that they can bring to the table.  Hearing Pavel himself talk about kettlebells on the Sports Rehab Expert Teleseminar also helped me understand that yes, there is a difference between dumbbells and kettlebells.

The main difference is that because of the way the handle loops over the weight, and is not centered in the middle of the load, it offsets the center of gravity of the implement, and therefore requires more stability at the shoulder while performing different movements.  No matter what movement you’re performing with the kettlebell, you’re holding it with one or two hands, and with the dynamic movement being performed the shoulder musculature has to work harder to stabilize the humeral head in the glenoid fossa than if you were using a dumbbell.

A good example of this would be during an overhead press.  With a dumbbell, the weight is nicely centered on your pressing arm.  With a kettlebell, the center of gravity is offset outside of your wrist which requires more stabilization from the involved structures; wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

Another benefit of using kettlebells versus dumbbells is that the weight doesn’t get in the way, especially as the weight becomes heavier for certain exercises.  Sometimes when using heavy dumbbells for certain movements, it might become difficult to achieve a full range of motion if the weight gets in the way.

A good example would be when doing a swing.  Although it’s possible to do a swing with a dumbbell, as soon as you use a weight that’s above 50 pounds, you’ll have to modify your stance and your movement pattern, so that the dumbbell doesn’t hit your crutch.

In the specific example of a swing, there’s a also the grip factor that becomes important.  Your grip on an upside down dumbbell isn’t nearly as good as the handle of a kettlebell.

There are other benefits to using kettlebells in the weight room, but these 2 to me represent the main reasons of using kettlebells over dumbbells in some specific exercises.

Keep in mind that I’m not trying to say that dumbbells are inferior to kettlebells.  They just have a different structures, and they both have different benefits and can be used in different situations.  They’re both tools, and I don’t think one should use one implement in favor of the other one.

It’s just about knowing which one is best in which situation.

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Top 10 Celebration

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Today is my birthday so I thought I would just write my favorite type of posts….you guessed right, it’s a top 10!!

I’ll make this one a top 10 of my favorite things from the last year.  Here’s my list:

Top Continuing Education Book: Ultimate MMA Conditioning by Joel Jamieson.  I absolutely loved this book for different reasons.  First, it opened my eyes on the importance of the aerobic system, which is EXTREMELY misunderstood.  Understanding the aerobic doesn’t mean stopping strength, power, and interval-based conditioning.  It just means having a better understanding of how the energy systems work together, and in turn being able to write better periodization plans and training programs for your athletes.  I wrote a piece for StrengthCoach.com a couple months ago about that, but it seems like some people didn’t get it and now think I’m promoting long low-intensity “cardio” as the best conditioning method…..

Top Non-Fitness Related Book: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wresling by Bret Hart.  Being a wrestling fan since I was a young boy, Bret “the Hitman” Hart has always been my favorite wrestler of all time.  I got a kindle for Christmas, and decided to buy Bret Hart’s book, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life!  To say that the book was AWESOME would be a MAJOR understatement.  Beside taking me back in my childhood, Bret Hart goes into a lot of details on how he achieved stardom in the wrestling world, but he also takes the reader backstage on the real feuds and drama stories that were happening behind the scenes.  He also openly talks about his own vices, as well as the ones of the other wrestlers, and shares some very funny anecdotes.  The book gets a very serious and emotional at times when he talk about the death of his brother Owen on a wrestling ring, and when he talks about his stroke.  This is probably the best non-fitness book I’ve ever read, and if you ever had even the slight interest in wrestling I definitely recommend reading it.

Top Seminar to Attend: BSMPG annual seminar.  The fact is that I didn’t assist to as many seminars as I would’ve liked this past year.  But this year, like any previous years, BSMPG in Boston is always my favorite one to attend.  Art Horne and Dan Boothby put together a very impressive list of speakers every year.  The fact that they make a hockey specific track makes it even more enjoyable for me!  With names like Charlie Weingroff, Shirley Sahrmann, Clare Franks, Joel Jamieson, Sean Skahan, and Pete Friesen it’s hard to beat.  On top of that, there’s always a bunch of fellow strength coaches from around the country that it’s nice to catch up and grab a drink with.  I am already looking forward to next year’s!

Top Lower Body Exercise: RFE Split Squat.  As I’m getting older and more banged up, I find myself leaning towards single-leg lifts for lower body.  I also like single leg variations because that’s the way sports are played (on one leg), and because of some people’s structural limitations who shouldn’t be squatting or deadlifting from the floor.  Obvisouly, there are a ton of other good single-leg variation; I just personally really like the RFE split squat because of the body angle, and the minimal help of the back leg.

Top Lifting Song: Cult of Personality by Living Colour.  This is something that’s constantly changing for me, but right now this is the song that get me going.

Top Supplement: Greens+.  I wrote a whole blog post on my favorite supplements not too long ago.  If you missed it you can check it out HERE.  I just love Greens+ because pretty much no one get enough fruits and vegetables in a day.  It’s a healthy and convenient supplement that I recommend a lot to young athletes because they rarely eat enough (if any) vegetables.

Top Upper Body Exercise: Chin up.  Although I’m not moving away from pressing exercises, I’m starting to realize that they have little value in regards to athletic performance, unless you play a sport that involves pushing or blocking (football is one example).  I like more and more the idea of using a chin up/pull up variation as a main upper body lift at least once a week.

Top Strength and Conditioning Website: Patrick Ward’s OptimumSportsPerformance.com.  Recently I’ve been reading less and less blogs.  Not that the content is not good enough or anything, but the information you’ll find in a blog post usually only scratches the surface of a specific topic.  As I’m looking to always learn more, I’m starting to find that books are just a better, more in-depth resource than websites.  Patrick Ward’s website though always spark my curiosity and I always take something away from his posts.  And if I don’t learn enough on a specific topic, I’ll look at it more in depth with books and DVDs on the topic.  Patrick always puts out great content, and have a way of always making you re-think you ways.  If you haven’t already, make sure you check his website HERE.

Top Core Exercise: Belly Press variations.  All Belly Press variations are amazing core exercises in my book.  The anti-rotation component of it is very specific to all rotational sports.  It’s also a very versatile exercises because of all the variations you can use.  Definitely at the top of my list.

Top Deception: The NHL lockout.  I can’t believe this is happening again, and as a hockey fan it is very upsetting for the NHL to be in the exact same situation it was, only 8 years ago.  It is clearly hurting the fans more than anyone else, and the worse part is I’m not sure than neither the players or the owners care.  Let’s just hope they won’t lose a full season again…

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Random Thoughts #332049

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

I haven’t done one of these in a while!  Since they’re my favorite, I figured I was due.  Without further ado, here we go:

1. We work on dynamic flexibility a lot in our warm ups with our athletes at Endeavor and with team Comcast during the season. A couple of guys on each team always complain that their flexibility is horrible. Strangely these are the same guys who half-ass the warm up when I have my back turned, and they’re also the same guys who usually come up to me midway through the season complaining about groin and hip flexor issues. Weird…

2. Twitter is so much more fun than Facebook. For one, you can see only the feeds of the people you wanna see, you don’t have to be mutual friends.  Let’s face it we all know a handful of people that we’re friends with on facebook that are just overly annoying with their status updates, but we don’t want to de-friend them because that would be rude. You don’t have that problem with twitter. I also feel like twitter is more about joking around and chirping your friends, which is fun. Celebrities and public figures are also easily accessible via twitter…if you’re the kind to stalk, you know.

3. Endeavor will be hosting the Myokinematic Restoration course of the Postural Restoration Institute on November 10-11.  If you have been following my work for a while, you should know by now that I’m a big proponent of the PRI concepts.  I will be the first one to admit that from the outside it might not be easy to get a grasp on the concept and the techniques until you’ve gone through a course.  If you live in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area it is your chance to finally understand the concept and apply the PRI methods.  Trust me you won’t be disappointed!  If you wanna sign up visit this page.

4. Zinc is a pretty powerful mineral.  A lot of athletes are deficient in zinc, according to Charles Poliquin.  Not that I consider myself an athlete anymore, but I have noticed the benefits of supplementing with zinc.  I tend to have a weak immune system because I get sick easily when I’m tired or workout a lot, and I have recurring cold sores, which I’ve had forever.  I’ve been randomly supplementing with zinc for the past year or so and loading on it when I feel like my immune system is down or when I have a cold sore pop out.  I must say that it has made a huge difference; I have been getting sick a lot less, and my cold sores have been going away in less than 2 days when supplementing with zinc (they usually last a full week).  You need to be careful with zinc supplementation though as it can be toxic if you take too much.  My best recommendation would be to get tested to know where your level of zinc is first, then you’ll know how much to use.

5. At Endeavor we have been experimenting with Cal Dietz’s triphasic training method in the training of our athletes, as well as in our training.  Honestly, it’s still early to know about the effects on our kids’ performance, but I can personally say that as I’m entering the concentric phase I’ve been feeling a lot more explosive recently and my weights just skyrocketed!  If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you check out Cal Dietz’s book.

6. My birthday is Thursday.  Coincidentally CM Punk’s new DVD is coming out today. You know…in case you feel like getting me something….

Yeah, I’m a wrestling fan in case you didn’t already know. Stop judging me.

7. Concussions seem to become an epidemic in sports today.  Hockey is probably leading the way with the pace constantly increasing, the players being bigger, and the presence of the boards surrounding the playing surface.  There isn’t a whole lot we can do about those factors.  But working on posture and neck strength and endurance can go a long way in preventing, or limiting the damages on some of those concussions.  Hockey players usually have pretty poor posture because of the way they skate, and because they spend a lot of time sitting on the bench.

Sitting like this for hours every season isn’t ideal for posture

That will make their posterior neck muscles overly tight, and their anterior neck muscles weak.  This could make the whiplash effect from a hard hit worse if those anterior neck muscles can’t eccentrically contract at the right time to limit that whiplash.  And the tightness of the posterior neck muscles could potentially make the concussion symptoms worse.  Therefore addressing posture, strength and endurance of the anterior neck muscles in training, and getting soft-tissue work done on the posterior neck muscles are extremely important.

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Is Overtraining Always Bad?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Overtraining is usually something we perceive as being bad.  Overtraining is associated with lack of recovery, injuries, suppressed immune system, plateaued results in the gym and on the field, low energy, low motivation, etc.  I’m not gonna dismiss any of these side effects from a training volume too high, as these are very real effects from overtraining.  Actually, I’m usually the first one to sensitize people to the effects of overtraining, and I encourage coaches and trainers to monitor training volumes and progress closely.

Then, why am I writing a post questioning the importance of overtraining?

I’m not really questioning the importance of overtraining.  What I want to say is that if it is planned, monitored, and the appropriate amount of rest is planned consequently to allow overreaching, then overtraining might be an interesting tool to use.  I’m not talking about the kind of overtraining that lasts for weeks, or months where you just bury your athletes in the gym without any consideration for obvious symptoms of overtraining that are just getting worse and worse.

If you know that your athletes are going on vacation for a week or two, or they won’t be able to train for that same amount of time, planning to have them reach an overtraining state before they leave might actually be beneficial.  Because you know that during their time away they will have plenty of time to recover, which will allow them to  supercompensate, which will be beneficial for their development.  Upon their return they’ll have recovered and they might have reached new levels of strength, power, endurance, or conditioning.

This might also be a strategy that can be used even with athletes who are not going on vacation.  You can plan overtraining in your program.  As long as it’s followed by an appropriate deload period, you can definitely get some benefits from it.

After all, overtraining is essential to make progress.  The system needs to be overloaded to create adaptation that will translate into gains in strength, power, endurance, aerobic power, or whatever you are trying to improve.  If the overload is not sufficient, the body won’t create adaptation that will trigger improvement.

In the image above, you can see the importance of creating the right amount of training stress, and give the appropriate amount of rest before imposing a new stress.  The red curve is the ideal one where the body is stressed enough to create supercompensation big enough that will lead to improvement.  In that case it’s also important that the training stress is re-applied at the right time (as identified by the letter B in the chart).  So the bigger the training stress (creating overtraining), the more time you will need to allow for recovery so the compensation reaches its peak.

If you ever talk to Cal Dietz, strength coach at the University of Minnesota, you’ll hear him say over and over again that he overtrains his athletes.  For someone who doesn’t understand the supercompensation concept it may sound kinda silly, but the reality is that Cal plans his training volume and rest periods with his athletes as much as anyone I know.  He takes into account the fact that his athletes are also students, that have Christmas break, Spring break, finals, vacations, and all that stuff that’s part of a student’s life.  Therefore he knows that his athletes won’t train with him 52 weeks a year, which is why overtraining (or overreaching) at different time of year is a good option in his situation.

Like I said before, everything is relative.  Nothing is all black, or all white, a lot of things fall into this good old gray area.  It’s all a matter of understanding the context.

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Shoulder Injuries in Hockey Players

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

It’s been 4 weeks since the hockey seasons started at the youth level, and already 3 players on the U18 team I train came up with shoulder injuries.  One of them suffered a grade 2 separation from a contact during a game.  Another one dislocated his shoulder pretty severely during a senior trip (what a bad luck), and will most likely require surgery.  And the last one mysteriously woke up with an AC joint pain, that “magically” went away after some daily soft tissue work.

At this point I still think hip injuries are the most common ones in hockey players, but shoulders might not be far behind, along with concussions.  The thing with shoulder injuries is that most of them are contact injuries due to the nature of the sport; especially at the U18 level, guys are bigger, stronger, faster and they hit hard.  Even though most non-contact injuries are preventable, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about traumatic injuries.

The fact that contact-based injuries are hard to prevent, doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to minimize the incidental damage from a hard hit.  Here are a couple strategies that might be worth applying to avoid another dislocated shoulder because of a hard hit.

1. Improve posture.  The chance of the humeral head popping out after a hard hit is much higher if the player has a poor resting posture.  Think about the direction the force is absorbed with a hit from the side if the scapula is anteriorly tilted and the humerus internally rotated.

The chances of the shoulder dislocating is much higher because of the alignment of the shoulder.  If you spend enough time working on posture with your athletes, and more importantly educating them on the importance of having good posture throughout the day, it may reduce the risk of dislocating a shoulder after a big hit.  When the alignment of the shoulder is optimal, the humeral head will be pressed in the shoulder joint following a hard hit, and the risk of dislocation will be reduced.

 

2. Shoulder and rotator cuff stability and strength.  In line with the previous point, along with good posture goes good stability.  If you don’t have good posture, you can’t have optimal stability.  That means all the muscles surrounding the shoulder structures (scapula, clavicle, humerus) must be strong and stable.  The rotator cuff in particular has to be very efficient in its role of stabilizing the humeral head in the glenoid fossa to prevent it from moving.  A strong rotator cuff can also be very effective in keeping the shoulder properly aligned.

Great exercise to improve the stability and strength of the rotator cuff

3. Muscle mass.  This might seem too broad of a strategy to be specific in helping shoulder injury, but I feel it’s an important one.  When you get hit against an immovable board at high velocity, if you don’t have a lot of “meat” to absorb the impact, the chances of getting structural damage increases.  The bigger and the stronger the muscles around the shoulders are, the better the capacity of the body at absorbing impacts.  So make sure your athletes eat enough!  It’s always a struggle for me with some of my smallest players to get them to understand that they need to eat more in order to gain muscle mass, but the higher the level they play, the more important it becomes.

Again, traumatic shoulder injuries are usually pretty hard to avoid in hockey, just like in other sports, but with the few tips above you will at least put all the chances on your side of limiting the risks and the damage of some of these contact injuries.

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